Wilkerson was expected to start on the Fenway Park mound Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels. But the Red Sox website lists Sean O’Sullivan as the starter while Wilkerson remains on the Pawtucket roster.
Boston media are reporting on Twitter that while Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke highly of Wilkerson, there was no plan to call him up. Another Tweet says the decision to call up O’Sullivan was based on the recommendation of the Pawtucket staff, presumably manager Kevin Boles and pitching coach Bob Kipper.
Wilkerson is in line to start Saturday for Pawtucket, which will play host to the Columbus Clippers. But the PawSox website listed no probable pitchers beyond Friday’s game.
Wilkerson, 27, is 4-1 in eight Pawtucket outings, including seven starts, with a 2.20 earned-run average, 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 41 innings.
O’Sullivan, 28, is 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts, including one complete game. He had 51 strikeouts and 10 walks in 71 innings.
While Wilkerson has never been in the major leagues, O’Sullivan does have big-league service time, including three appearances (two starts) this season with Boston where he is 1-0 with a 7.94 ERA. He also pitched in 2014 and ’15 for the Philadelphia Phillies, in ’13 with the San Diego Padres, in ’10 and ’11 with the Kansas City Royals and in ’09 and ’10 with the Angels. He has a 12-23 lifetime MLB record with a 6.03 ERA.
Wilkerson was widely expected to be called up by Boston as the No. 5 starter after Eduardo Rodriguez was routed by the Tampa Bay Rays last Monday and subsequently demoted to the minors.
Wilkerson’s story, Tommy John surgery following an NAIA national championship and All-America status at Cumberland and subsequent journey through a series of odd jobs and independent baseball before his signing by the Red Sox and dominating performance in the BoSox system, was intriguing to the Beantown media, much of which have been calling for Farrell’s firing and blasted the decision to leave Wilkerson in Rhode Island.
“I hate to hear that,” Cumberland coach Woody Hunt, a former minor-league manager and pro scout, said upon hearing the news late Friday afternoon. “That’s baseball for you, and that’s the politics of baseball. They don’t want to take a chance on someone with Aaron’s history… The safe bet is to go with someone with big-league experience like O’Sullivan, who hasn’t done well.
“That’s too bad. He’s outpitched everybody in Triple-A…and I think that should add fuel to his fire. He’ll make it, though. I’m sorry Aaron had to go through that.”